Over the coming days, we’re going to be running down the potential summer trade candidates at each position. First up: starting pitching, where it’s a true seller’s market.
The old adage that you can never have enough pitching remains as true today as ever. Just ask the Mets, who entered the year with a borderline-unfair collection of rotation talent but now appear to be in need of a fill-in piece. And New York is far from the neediest buyer. I’d list ’em all, but it’s easier just to note that only a few viable contenders — the Indians and Nationals being the obvious examples — have no real cause to look at starters.
That’s not to say that the entire remaining slate of postseason hopefuls will be chasing arms as a top priority, but there’s loads of demand. Some organizations are likely to be looking more at sturdy veterans to shore up the staff, with the Royals, Orioles, and Blue Jays among the teams that could fit that profile. Others — the Marlins, Rangers, and Red Sox come to mind — could be willing to give up a bigger return to add a quality, controllable pitcher.
Here are the trade candidates that teams like those could consider pursuing:
- In a very thin rental class, Hill clearly stands out as the highest-performing arm. It still feels funny to be talking about him this way, given that he’s 36 and lacks a real track record, but Hill has now compiled a 2.06 ERA over his last 105 innings with 10.8 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9. Teams will likely value Hill as a frontline starter, at least as a three-month asset.
- That assessment is informed by the fact that the rest of the market is so barren. Hellickson is surely next in line, and he looks to be a useful arm. But most contenders would be adding him as a solid piece to help win some games down the stretch, not because he’d upgrade their post-season rotation. Still, he’s a useful pitcher and carries a sub-4.00 ERA into the All-Star break.
- Cashner has the pedigree and the stuff to rate as a top target, but he’s still producing middling results — a 4.60 ERA and 7.6 K/9 vs. 3.4 BB/9 since the start of 2015. The right club might still bite at a chance to try harnessing his talent.
- The rest of the bunch would have been much more interesting three or four years ago. As things stand, the best that can be said is that they’re all still pitching in major league rotations. It’s hard to consider any more than gap-fillers, though De La Rosa has shown signs of late of returning to his typical form.
Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly & Chris Archer (Rays), Drew Pomeranz (Padres), Julio Teheran (Braves), Sonny Gray (Athletics), Anthony DeSclafani (Reds), Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago & Nick Tropeano (Angels), Patrick Corbin & Robbie Ray (Diamondbacks), Jimmy Nelson (Brewers), Tyler Chatwood (Rockies), Nathan Eovaldi & Michael Pineda (Yankees)
- As moribund as the rental market is, that only increases the intrigue surrounding the many controllable pitchers who play for non-contending clubs. Valuing these arms, and guessing which are likeliest to be dealt, is awfully complicated. We’ll largely just have to wait and see which sellers are most motivated and which pitchers are most valued by the market.
- Tampa Bay still appears in the most obvious position to deal a controllable starter. The Rays would be selling low on Moore, Smyly, and Archer, but perhaps another organization will look past their struggles in the results department and make a fair offer. Odorizzi, though, might be the likeliest to be shipped out; he owns a 3.91 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 over his four years with the Rays, and is set to enter arbitration next year.
- If you’re looking for a single arm on this list that’s most likely to change hands, it may be Pomeranz. There’s an argument to be made that San Diego ought to keep the breakout southpaw for itself, but if another organization is willing to treat him like the 2.47 ERA pitcher he’s been over 102 innings thus far, the time may be right to strike a deal.
- Teheran and Gray have long been discussed as possible trade pieces, with their affordable and lengthy contract situations serving to burnish their trade value. The former has been excellent, while the latter has had a rough go thus far. Regardless, we’re not seeing clear signals that either is truly available, and it’d take a truly significant offer to produce any movement.
- Similar things could be said about the remaining pitchers from this group. To take a few examples, teams will need to bring big offers to motivate the Brewers to deal away their ample control over Nelson, convince the Reds to part with DeSclafani, or get the pitching-needy Halos to cash in Shoemaker in the midst of an interesting season. All of the players listed are plausible trade pieces in the right scenario; while none seem particularly likely to move on their own, it seems fair to expect one or two of the group to end up in a swap.
- There have been whispers about the idea of a contender chasing Greinke, who is pitching as well as should have been expected — which is to say, not well enough to continue last year’s ridiculous pace and probably not quite to the value of his monster contract. But we’ve yet to hear any strong connection of his name to the real-world market.
- That’s not the case with regard to Santana, who has reportedly been scouted quite closely. Teams looking for a durable, back-of-the-rotation type of arm will strongly consider him, assuming the cash can be sorted out.
- Nolasco, Niese, and Garza have all coughed up over five earned per nine on the year, but each has some potential appeal. The younger Niese could be the most desirable of this bunch, as he is controllable by a club option, though Nolasco is carrying an appealing K/BB ratio.
- A resurgent Sabathia would be a pretty interesting guy to watch were it not for the fact that he’s headed toward the vesting of a whopping $25MM option for 2017.
- There are a variety of possibilities here, ranging from fifth starter candidates (Nova, Straily, Milone) to bounceback types (Hahn, Peralta, Lyles) who are not currently working in a big league rotation. Harrell has had two nice starts for Atlanta, though he’s go a way to go to proving he’s worth surrendering real value. Hand has been a new man since moving to a full-time relief role this year.